Key takeaways, box score from Arkansas' Game 1 loss to Vanderbilt
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FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas dug out of an early hole for a second straight weekend, but this time came up just short in extra innings Friday night.
Down to his final strike, Enrique Bradfield Jr. crushed a three-run home run down the right field line in the 10th inning to break a tie and give Vanderbilt a 9-6 series-opening win over the Razorbacks at Baum-Walker Stadium.
It was a disappointing finish for Arkansas, which found itself down 5-0 after three innings — similar to last week’s series opener at Auburn — only to fight back in it, force extras for just the third time this season and lose with closer Brady Tygart on the mound.
“I mean, it’s a tough loss because we were down and we had a chance to win it,” Van Horn said. “I just told (the team) they played hard, told them to get some rest and tomorrow’s another game, a big game for us.”
Having retired the first four batters he faced, the freshman walked Javier Vaz to start the 10th and then gave up a double off the wall to Parker Noland. That put runners on second and third with no outs, but the Razorbacks nearly wiggled out of it.
After Tygart got Tate Tolwyck to fly out to shallow right, not deep enough for a sacrifice, Carter Young botched an attempted squeeze bunt. The ball went just in front of the plate and catcher Michael Turner easily fielded it and tagged the runner trying to score from third.
The Commodores still had the top of their order coming up, but Arkansas quickly got Bradfield — who came into the game hitting .297 and was already 2 for 4 — in the hole, as he fouled off the first two pitches and then took a ball.
“Man, looked like we were going to get out of it,” head coach Dave Van Horn said. “They bunt the ball, we get the runner at the plate, got two down, got the leadoff man at a 1-2 count.”
Even though Davis Diaz, with his .239 batting average, was on deck, Van Horn said there was never really a thought to pitch around Bradfield because he didn’t want to load the bases and set up a potential go-ahead walk with Tygart having already thrown a couple of innings.
The decision to go right at Bradfield was further solidified when Tygart got ahead in the count. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, the speedy center fielder turned on the next pitch, crushing a line drive that stayed just inside the right field foul pole for his seventh home run of the season.
“Really, I don’t think it was that bad of a pitch,” Van Horn said. “It was kind of down. Obviously, he was kind of sitting on a breaking ball, but you’ve still got to square it up. It wasn’t like a hanger. He just went down and got it. You’ve gotta give Bradfield credit. He just hit a good pitch.”
Here are several other key takeaways Arkansas’ series-opening loss to the Commodores…
Noland Struggles Again
Arkansas ace Connor Noland turned in another subpar outing Friday night, surrendering five earned runs on six hits and three walks while striking out five in five innings.
It seemed like he might be back to his earlier form when he breezed through the first inning on just 13 pitches, but the frame did include back-to-back pitches in which he bounced one 15 feet in front of the plate and then plunked Diaz.
That freebie didn’t hurt him, but Vanderbilt made Noland pay for each of his three walks.
In the second inning, Parker Noland followed the first walk by hitting a high fly ball into left that carried out of the park for a two-run home run. The second walk came immediately after the long ball and eventually came around to score on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt by Bradfield.
The Commodores tacked on another run when a blooper by Diaz just barely got over Robert Moore’s glove for a two-out RBI single to make it 4-0 in the second. It was a leadoff walk in the third that led to the fifth run, which came on Noland’s sacrifice fly.
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